Wednesday, March 18, 2009 23 Comments

The Raven

He seems to like bacon. An
Eat-it-all, a follower
Of lions, wolves, hyenas,
But not averse to peanuts,

He is found in crowds
And pairs, and by himself.
This one will come and beg,
Like a big black bluejay.

Honor is not his forte.
Neither is humility.
He takes and goes angrily,
The sufferer, the activist.

How can I not love him?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't this from one of Poe's unpublished manuscripts?

March 18, 2009 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Open for annotation and discussion over at

March 18, 2009 at 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Foucault said...

I get this one.

It seems to be about either Barack Obama or blacks in general.

First, ravens are obviously black.

Barack Obama did follow lots of wacky and hostile individuals like Ayers, Wright, etc. (lions, wolves, hyenas).

Blacks like peanuts (George Washington Carver).

Crowds (gangs)

Blacks beg for money.

big black bluejay = big black c**k

Honor and humility....not exactly what we associate Barack or blacks in general with.

Takes and goes angrily.

The sufferer (Barack as Christ figure)

The activist (Barack; and black "leaders" in general)

How can I not love him? (obvious sarcasm)

March 19, 2009 at 12:04 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

How can I not love him?

More than just sarcasm. It's a directive as well.

March 19, 2009 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Foucault, a good reading. I would not finger "blacks" as such, although I think that probably the black underclass is a sort of archetype that MM is using here intentionally. Rather, as I just alluded, methinks the poem is about dependence in the welfare state in general, specifically about those who are dependent.

The character of those who receive welfare by right is that of the raven. It is the top of the food chain, and so displays the natural fearlessness and arrogance of a predator (lack of humility; "takes and goes angrily"). Yet it is a scavenger, and must have the habits of mind necessary for that: pushy, greedy, and without honor; for carrion is finite and unpredictable. And although very independent, nonetheless still a follower.

March 19, 2009 at 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

I see that MM is continuing with his oft-stated plan of culling his readers to a select few. Perhaps three or four more weeks of thin gruel will drive off the riffraff.

Or perhaps MM is throwing us peanuts these last weeks. Instead of the red meat we've grown used to...

Hey, that's another poem reading. We commentors are the ravens, MM is the lion, and this poem is another week of peanuts instead of the zebra-carcass feasts we used to have. Do you feel angry that we've been denied yet another week of real UO for this drivel? (Fortunately, MM can't help but love us.)

March 19, 2009 at 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like this one. Where is the man from Nantucket?


March 19, 2009 at 12:37 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

I don't think they have Ravens in Nantucket.

March 19, 2009 at 3:05 PM  
Anonymous infobeast said...

Someof you are reading too much racial innuendo into this.

Mencius says the raven likes bacon, i.e. pork. Pork, of course, comes from congressmen. An opportunistic feeder, the raven is just as happy with peanuts (elephant food) from Republicans.

Ravens are not traditionally thought of as parasites, but scavengers. The classic image of ravens is of the birds swooping down over a bloody battlefield, reveling in the carnage. That's why Odin was so fond of them. They're Eurasian birds, not African. Color is incidental.

The ravens here are all those who profit from the parliamentary battles of democracy.

March 19, 2009 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Neutrino Cannon said...

All I know is that I want some bacon now.

March 20, 2009 at 12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Some of you are reading too much racial innuendo into this."

I dunno about this.

"big black bluejay" seems like an obvious big black c*ck reference.

March 20, 2009 at 12:48 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

This discussion reminds me of Freud's comment that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a raven is just a raven. The poem describes corvid behavior rather accurately. As for the 'big black bluejay' - jays, like crows and magpies, belong to the same family as ravens, and there is a family resemblance.

The common raven is widespread both in North America and in Europe. They are uncommon, but occasionally seen in my state; the fish & wildlife regulations caution anyone who shoots crows to learn to distinguish them from ravens, since the latter are protected.

Nither crows nor ravens remind me very much of the black thug underclass. One point of difference is that corvids are intelligent birds and interesting to watch. They fulfill a useful function in nature by scavenging up the messes left by others. It is only when there are too many of them that they become a destructive nuisance. The parallel that suggests itself is the legal profession.

March 20, 2009 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gah! Enough with the poetry, already.

March 20, 2009 at 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This must be about the black guy that tried to rob my iphone today. He did not succeed.

Must be because of his lack of access to education and affordable health care.

March 21, 2009 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

what did he try to rob you iphone of?

March 22, 2009 at 4:00 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard is now a contributor?

Something's happening here
what it is ain't exactly clear. . .

March 24, 2009 at 5:17 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

GMP: I wrote to Mencius about the spam problem. (Anarchists believe direct action.) I suggested a minor tweak, which MM says he did. Comments on posts older than two weeks should now go into moderation, which for MM, I fear, means basically a black hole. This should have the effect of closing old comments threads. (Whether it applies retroactively to all threads I do not know; it does not appear to.)

I also suggested he use someone to delete spam, and volunteered my help. MM took me up on that. So now I am on the blog team. Unfortunately, although I have the power to post new items, I do not have the power to delete comments, at least not in MM's threads (which are, of course, all of them). So my being on the team is, right now, quite useless. I have informed MM of this; it is to be hoped that he can tweak the permissions such that I can delete comments in his threads. If not, well, so much for that. At least the moderation will prevent the spammers from appending megabytes of crap to the ends of new threads.

March 24, 2009 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Speaking of black holes,
is your guess correct -- is this the "Zooropa" period of MM's intellectual development?

March 24, 2009 at 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Yu Darvish said...


So now you are basically Mencius' bitch, right?

I for one, think this is well deserved. Mencius deserves a bitch for his impressive output over the past few years.

You mentioned that you have the power to contribute material to this blog......well I do hope that it be kept to an absolute minimum, and by absolute minimum I mean zero, as I would hate to see this oasis of reason and sanity besmirched by stupidity.

March 24, 2009 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Yu: charming.

Apparently there is no way for me to mod comments as we had hoped. Ergo, MM has removed me from the blog. So much for that.

March 25, 2009 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

until about a month ago, i thought that the ideal solution here would be something that would automatically close commenting a month (or so) after the last comment on a given post--that would have handled the sporadic spam that used to show up on two-year-old posts (which i'd find out about because i'd commented on them with the "email follow-up" box checked)

then the zero-day spam started showing up…

March 25, 2009 at 7:36 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

"As for their neo-Universalist adversaries, the Polygon proper, there must be some avian mascot that fits the bill. But it is certainly no member of the pigeon family. I have a pair of semi-tame ravens that come regularly to my deck for peanuts, which I've taught them to catch in the air. I think the Polygon's bird has to be some kind of corvid - the only real question is whether it's a bluejay, a crow, or a raven. For now I'll stick with the last."

March 30, 2009 at 11:20 AM  
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